April 29, 2019 / 6:44 AM / 3 months ago

Australia shares ease off 11-year peak as financials drag; NZ up

* Financials snap eight-day winning streak

* ANZ & NAB to report earnings this week

* Energy stocks end lower for third straight session (Updates to close)

April 29 (Reuters) - Australian shares ended lower on Monday after losses in financial stocks pulled the benchmark down from a more than 11-year high as investors remained cautious ahead of bank earnings.

The S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.4 percent, or 26.10 points, at 6,359.50, snapping four straight days of gains. The benchmark gained 0.1 percent on Friday to close at its highest since December 2007.

Investors are awaiting the U.S. Federal Reserve’s meeting this week and Chinese factory data for further clues on policy direction and health of the world’s biggest economies.

Financials, the benchmark’s biggest sector, saw their worst day in more than two weeks. Index heavyweights Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and National Australia Bank are due to report their half-yearly earnings on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

“Banks are a very substantial part of the Australian index. There has been a lot of talk around (bank earnings) with a couple of reports over the weekend saying that the earnings might disappoint. That of course is affecting the selling we are seeing today,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.

The “Big Four” banks were in the red with National Australia Bank as the biggest loser, shedding 0.9 percent. The financial index snapped an eight-day winning streak to end 0.6 percent lower.

The energy index fell 0.7 percent as oil prices extended Friday’s slump after President Donald Trump demanded that producer club OPEC raise output to soften the impact of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search lost 0.9 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

Refiner Viva Energy Group slid 3.4 percent after flagging that its energy retail segment’s underlying EBITDA will take an A$30 mln to A$35 mln ($21.2 mln - $24.7 mln) hit through April.

Elsewhere, Australia’s second-largest grocery chain Coles Group posted a rise in quarterly sales at its supermarkets in their first post-demerger earnings.

Shares of the retailer rose 0.3 percent to their highest close since early February, while larger competitor Woolworths Group lost 0.9 percent.

Gold stocks extended gains to close 0.7 percent higher, as bullion traded at a more than one-week high.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index closed up 0.2 percent, or 18.20 points, at 10,012.77.

New Zealand-listed shares of A2 Milk Company gained 1.6 percent, while Spark New Zealand firmed 1.5 percent. ($1 = 1.4170 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Mensholong Lepcha Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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